There’s No Perfect Temperature for Outdoor Play!

With the weather getting cooler, days getting shorter and people spending more time indoors, I’m hearing a lot of excuses to keep children indoors when we should be doing the opposite. I don’t understand why so many early childhood educators do not take children outdoors! It can be 75 degrees with a slight breeze and they say it’s too hot or 50 degrees and sunny and they say it’s too cold. I’ve even heard that “we can’t go out because of licensing!”

There are very few days when weather conditions are so extreme that it’s safer to keep children indoors than to take advantage of the benefits of getting them out. Large muscle coordination is key for early development, and what better place to grow these muscles than outdoors through active movement? Don’t just open the windows and let fresh air in, let the children out! Outdoor activity also combats the childhood obesity epidemic, a concern for many parents and the goal of many programs. And what about the children just running around and letting go a little bit of stress? Our doctors recommend we exercise weekly to reduce stress, and it works for children, too! Physical activity and fresh air go a long way to reducing stress for children and for their caregivers.

So, why are we keeping children indoors? Many people still have the belief that cold weather can make you sick, but anyone who has attended a Communicable Disease training knows better! Bacteria and viruses are the causes of most illnesses. While cold temperatures can lower the body’s temperature and by extension the effectiveness of the immune system, if a person is dressed appropriately and only outdoors for a short period of time (let’s say 10 – 15 minutes) moving around playing, their chances of staying healthy due to not being closed up indoors breathing the same stale air are much greater than their chances of getting sick.

You might be shocked to know that most states, including Ohio, do not have a set temperature for going outdoors. Rule 5101:2-12-14 from Ohio’s Child Care Licensing rules actually states that “the center shall provide outdoor play each day in suitable weather for any toddler, preschool child, and school child.” Though “suitable weather” is not defined, it’s up to the teacher to decide, and a chilly day is not an unsuitable day when a hat, coat, and gloves are involved!

According to the authors of the Environment Rating Scales, a nationally recognized classroom assessment, children should go outside “almost every day, unless there is active precipitation, extremely hot or cold conditions, or public announcement that advise people to remain indoors due to weather conditions such as high levels of pollution and extreme cold or heat that might cause health problems.” We have to challenge the idea that 32 degrees is always extreme. 32 degrees with calm winds or even winds 10 miles per hour is considered acceptable when children are dressed appropriately, so, bundle them up and take them out! It’s good for everyone, even you!

9 thoughts on “There’s No Perfect Temperature for Outdoor Play!

  1. Jen Re

    Debbie Cryer (one of the authors of the environment rating scales) said to me…”There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” And now, I let my daugher play in the rain (no thunder and lightning of course).

  2. Julie

    I remember when I was a director, sometimes it was the teachers who didn’t want to go outside, not the children. Knowing that the health benefits far outweight the health risks, let’s all put our coats on an head outside!

  3. Susan Cannon

    I met a teacher from Sweden who told me that parents there (where weather is apt to be a bit colder than OHio) complain when the children do not go outside every single day even when it is raining. A strong belief in the value of fresh air.

  4. Denise Steward

    I think teachers need to let go of the myth that cold weather causes people to catch colds. At a center where I used to work, we would routinely take the children outdoors in the winter, bundled up. When the temperature dipped below 30 degrees and there was a lot of wind, we would open up the windows for a while. Of course we don’t take the children outdoors when the windchill factor is 20 degrees or less, or when the summer temperature is 95 degrees and humid. We have a couple of teachers who take the children to run outside on the playground during a summer rain shower. It’s great for the children, and fun for some teachers!

  5. Saadia Pegg

    I run a daycare out of my home, I go out everyday to met buses, or to do some cleaning out the front. My childern love to go outside in all kind of weather. I keep extra hats, gloves, scarfs etc. to answer the question, I fell it’s never too cold or hot to take the kids out everyday, if only for a few minutes.

  6. Julie

    Even though the grass and trees are thirsty, this has been such a beautiful fall, and ideal weather for outdoor play. I visited programs this week and saw children outdoors playing everywhere. I even saw a teacher with a group of older toddlers out on the playground collecting acorns for a project.

    I am glad to hear Denise and Saadia describe their efforts to make sure that outdoor play occurs almost every day. Except for extreme weather days, children can play outdoors nearly every day.

  7. Kim

    I know of a program that purchased rain coats and rain boots for their toddlers to go out in the rain. How fun is that!?! I wish I were two and attending that program – there is nothing better than playing in the rain!

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